Chris Matthews Slams Huckabee for Getting it Wrong on Obama and Kenya - and Gets it Wrong on Obama and Kenya

Here's an example of a former newspaper man correcting a politician's claim -- and his correction requiring a correction.

Appearing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" on Monday, MSNBC's Chris Matthews offered kneejerk condemnation of Mike Huckabee saying President Obama grew up in Kenya as "racist," an assertion Huckabee had acknowledged as inaccurate.

Matthews piled on, making his own demonstrably false claim in the process (video after page break) --

LENO: OK, how about Huckabee?

MATTHEWS: He gives a bad name to empty suits.

LENO: What happened to Huckabee? He's talking, what's all this ...?

MATTHEWS: Huckabee, he's one of these guys that comes off as nice. He's, you know, a reverend and a minister and all this. He's out there selling that Barack Obama grew up with the Mau Maus in Kenya.

.... followed by Matthews making an incoherent, apropo-of-nothing, self-congratulatory plug for his stint in the Peace Corps --

MATTHEWS: I mean, the guy needs, I spent three years in the Peace Corps, I mean, and I've been back in the two years and I've been back and forth a lot, I, he never spent one day in his life in Kenya. He grew up in Hawaii. He spent like six, a couple of years in Indonesia, going to Catholic school there. The rest of the time he's playing basketball in Honolulu. We've got pictures of him playing for his team in Honolulu when he's a kid. We got the announcement when he was born in the Honolulu newspapers when he's born, and they killed, I think it's racist, I'm sorry. I think that's the game they're playing.

Matthews's emphatic claim that Obama "never spent one day in his life in Kenya" is refuted by someone presumably considered an unimpeachable source to Matthews -- Obama himself, specifically in his first book "Dreams From My Father."

In fact, not only does Obama's weeks-long visit to Kenya in 1987 comprise fully the last third of "Dreams From My Father" -- with Part Three aptly titled "Kenya" -- the emotional odyssey to his ancestral homeland is clearly a pivotal episode in Obama's life.

In the book, Obama describes visiting the graves of his father and grandfather --

At the edge of a neighboring cornfield, at the foot of a mango tree, I saw two long rectangles of cement jutting out of the earth like a pair of exhumed coffins. There was a plaque on one of the graves: HUSSEIN ONYANGO OBAMA, B. 1895. D. 1979. The other was covered with yellow bathroom tiles, with a bare space on the headstone where the plaque should have been. ...

How to explain the emotions of that day? I can summon each moment in my mind almost frame by frame. ... It wasn't simply joy that I felt in each of these moments. Rather, it was a sense that everything I was doing, every touch and breath and word, carried the full weight of my life; that a circle was beginning to close, so that I might fully recognize myself as I was, here, now, in one place. ...

For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept. When my tears were finally spent. When my tears were finally spent, I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt the circle finally close. I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America -- the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I'd felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I'd witnessed in Chicago -- all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father's pain. My questions were my brothers' questions. Their struggle, my birthright.

Obama "never spent one day in his life in Kenya," according to Chris Matthews -- providing that one ignores what Obama describes as one of the most significant days in his life.

In a September 2010 Forbes magazine cover story "How Obama Thinks," the basis for his perceptive book "The Roots of Obama's Rage," Dinesh D'Souza describes the relevance of this scene, calling it "the climax of Obama's narrative" --

In an eerie conclusion, Obama writes that "I sat at my father's grave and spoke to him through Africa's red soil." In a sense, through the earth itself, he communes with his father and receives his father's spirit.  Obama takes on his father's struggle, not by recovering his body but by embracing his cause. He decides that where Obama Sr. has failed, he will succeed. Obama Sr.'s hatred of the colonial system becomes Obama Jr.'s hatred; his botched attempt to set the world right defines his son's objective. Through a kind of sacramental rite at the family tomb, the family struggle becomes the son's birthright.

Colonialism today is a dead issue. No one cares about it except the man in the White House. He is the last anticolonial. Emerging market economies such as China, India, Chile and Indonesia have solved the problem of backwardness; they are exploiting their labor advantage and growing much faster than the U.S. If America is going to remain on top, we have to compete in an increasingly tough environment.

But instead of readying us for the challenge, our President is trapped in his father's time machine. Incredibly, the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s. This philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anticolonial ambitions, is now setting the nation's agenda through the reincarnation of his dreams in his son. The son makes it happen, but he candidly admits he is only living out his father's dream. The invisible father provides the inspiration, and the son dutifully gets the job done. America today is governed by a ghost.

Huckabee admitted that he erred about Obama. Does anyone seriously expect Matthews to do likewise for a comparable error?

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts